PROGRESA Program Closing Ceremony

La Embajadora Dogu conversando con productores durante el cierre del programa PROGRESA

Remarks by U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua, Laura F. Dogu
Managua, September 7, 2016

It is a pleasure to be with you today in this celebration for all the results achieved by the Rural Business, Health and Environment Management Program (PROGRESA) that benefited more than 4,800 producers in the north of the country. PROGRESA is part of a series of efforts that the United States Government is making to improve the lives of many Nicaraguans. In the last 5 years, the United States Department of Agriculture, through its Funds for Progress program, has supported more than 10,000 producers on many issues such as good agricultural practices, bovine traceability, the administration of farms, livestock management and nutrition, and the use of technology to improve productive yields.

The U.S. government knows that small producers are the heart of Nicaragua’s economy and recognizes the importance of these projects for rural development in the most vulnerable areas of the country. The final goal of all these programs is to contribute to improving the income of producers and reduce the levels of poverty, which is one of the fundamental pillars of the work carried out by the U.S. government in Nicaragua.

I am very happy to know that the PROGRESA project contributed to generating more than 5,500 jobs and more than 82 million dollars in sales of agricultural products which contributed to improve the standard of living of the producers. Likewise, the poverty index was reduced by 10% within the project participants, going from 36 to 26.6%.

From the first day that I came to Nicaragua, I realized the great importance of the agricultural sector for the national economy. Employing 31% of the workforce, contributing 60% of exports excluding free zones and contributing a little more than 15% to GDP. We can say without a doubt, that the agricultural sector is one of the most important in the national economy.

During my visits throughout the country, I have had the pleasure of meeting many producers and seeing first-hand the excellent work they do to grow healthier and better quality food. Also, it gives me great satisfaction to see how the implementation of good agricultural practices has opened the doors to new markets. Similarly, it is worthy to recognize the great effort made by producers to order the administration of their farms.

A message that I have repeatedly heard from many experts, is that producers must acquire a business vision and not see their activities on the farm only as a way of life. Through PROGRESA, more than 2,000 producers were trained in the development of farm plans, inculcating entrepreneurship and business vision with a strong market focus. A very important component of all our projects is the support to women producers, since they are essential for the sustainable economic development of Nicaragua.

I am proud to know that this program managed to implement eight business initiatives with women’s groups, in the areas of transformation of dairy products, production of vegetable seedlings and commercial production. These eight groups are made up of 72 women from the north of the country. One example is Doña Bertha Méndez, who after receiving a series of trainings through the program, became the president of the Renacer Palacagüina Dairy cooperative (COOLARPA), promoting significant changes in the cooperative’s administration, product development and marketing strategies.

In the last two years, the COOLARPA cooperative managed to increase milk collection and processing by 100 percent. All these changes contributed to improving the cooperative’s income and the development of formal business alliances. In the globalized world we live in, agriculture is a sector that faces many challenges, such as low levels of productivity, the effects of climate change, market access, and limited financing, among others. You, the producers, know better than anyone all the challenges you face to produce. For that reason, today, more than ever, we must work hard and make use of available technologies to be more productive. We must also study the market very well and direct our crops based on this, to take advantage of all the opportunities it offers.

The U.S. Government will continue to be a strong ally of the agricultural sector of Nicaragua, we hope to continue working hand in hand with all the actors, to contribute to the strengthening and development of this beautiful country.

Thank you very much.

# # #